New technologies in the classroom :

Digital cameras and deaf pupils






June 2001 School year 2000/2001




1. official references about the use *

of New technologies at school *

2. new technologies in the classroom *

2.1. the digital camera, discovering it, exploiting it in a specific manner *

2.1.1. Digital cameras, a technological revolution *

2.1.2. The attitude of deaf children towards new technologies, transitional tools *

2.1.3. Images, learning sources *

2.1.4. Photographs, particular images *

2.2. Towards an enriched and renewable pedagogy : *

What digital cameras bring in a deaf pupils class. *

2.2.1. The pedagogical approach *

2.2.2. Language activities *

2.2.3. Developing spatiotemporal marks. *

2.2.4. Creating an FSL lexicon, using as media the digital camera and the computer. *

2.3. The limits of using a digital camera in a class of deaf children *


bibliography *





In the era of digital images, along with the democratization of the internet, new technologies prove to be a step ahead more and more widespread in all human activities.

School, reacting to the boost of technical research through the Computer For All project (CFA, 1984) has put those new technologies at stake for nearly twenty years.

Since the decree of November 18th 1991, instituting Integrated Classes in Primary Schools (ICIPS), using those new technologies has been officially encouraged in specialized teachers’ everyday teaching, whatever their pupils’ disabilities.

Deaf children, whose eyesight can make up for heir hearing lack, bestow a particular interest to images in general, a universal language; digital cameras have become an instantaneous and next to limit-free source of images. To what extent could this new tool contribute to enrich the pedagogical practices of specialized teachers for deaf children (A option in France) so that learning be eased?

Will a deaf child, whose hard times at school lie for the most in the realm of language in general, be able to find in that new tool a bridge between image and language?

First of all, let us have a look at the French ministry of education directives about new technologies, before linking them to specialized teachers pedagogical practices using a digital camera.

  1. official references about the use

of New technologies at school

The first primary and secondary school widespread computers acquisition project dates back from 1984, called the CFA project.

Since that first landmark bringing computers into the classroom, several official documents, some of them being aimed at special education (School Adaptation and Integration in France) have emphasized the use of new technologies as pedagogical tools.

As soon as October 29th 1985, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a former minister of education, declared: "Those tools should allow, in the perspective of a one-on-one pedagogy, to take into account every pupil’s different learning rhythm. Some of them having learning difficulties, disabled pupils or next to becoming drop-outs."

The decree of June 11th 1987, talking about the use of computers in primary schools does not miss to define "computing technologies as a set of teaching tools."

Two specific decrees, from September 7, 1987 (Numbers 87-273, 87-08), entitled the pedagogical organization of state, national, local, private institutions taking care of deaf children and deaf teenagers, state: "The educational project will take into account the whole set of new technologies:[...] computer technology in both aspects: computerized teaching and technological smatterings, both indispensable to the adaptation to the future."

Four years later, the decree of May 14th, 1991, confirms the importance of new technologies: "It has been noticed that using computers eased the way of teaching more individually. Computers, along with softwares are to enrich the whole set of tools teachers could usefully resort to."

That same year in November, the official text instituting ICIPS also refers to new technologies:

" Using technological help devices: to reduce disabilities. [...] To prepare mastering news and communication techniques. As all the other children, but in an earlier and more urgent way, those pupils are to know about their contemporary techniques, whose skill will be, soon, a criterion of adaptation to society. It is mainly about gathering , storing, data processing techniques, be it written, visual, oral (computers, wordprocessing, calculators, tape recorders, VCRs...), and also about communication (phone, minitel...) Experience shows that disabled pupils take advantage of an early contact with those knowledge and exchange instruments and that they come to be skilled more easily than forecast. For some of them, being skilled in that realm is indispensable to school acquisitions and to the extension of studies."

All those laws’ directives, putting forward the indispensable appropriation of new technologies by pupils come back in the Official Bulletin number 3 of May 8th, 1987, defining the skills of specialized teachers: "It is expected from teachers for the deaf that they use in their everyday classroom practices computing and audiovisual means adapted to deafness."

The decree number 98-133 from June 22th, 1998 confirms "the governmental action program "Preparing France into news and data society" from January 1998." That program deals with financing schools and institutions new technologies acquisition projects.

In this way, reading through those laws makes clearer the importance bestowed to new technologies at school; more be it when pupils are disabled. In the same way, teaching using the new millennium’s tools seems to me to carry along an interest and imperative feature to deaf pupils.

Among those new technologies were lately born digital cameras. In order to make clearer the ideas about that camera, let me give you its main specifications.



2. new technologies in the classroom

2.1. the digital camera, discovering it, exploiting it in a specific manner

2.1.1. Digital cameras, a technological revolution

Taking hundreds of pictures, without worrying about the film, knowing right away if the snapshots are of good quality was not so long ago an impossible mission for the rookie photographer. But lately, digital cameras becoming more and more affordable, have enabled that challenge.

Discarding the good old films, memory cards, whose latest models can each contain a total of 2000 snapshots, almost give no limit to its user as far as the number of snapshots is concerned.

Moreover, the in-built LCD color screen ( whose size is about 250mm times 300mm) gives the possibility to visualize instantaneously one’s snapshot and therefore to erase it at once if it does not meet the photographer’s expectations.

Connecting the camera to a TV set makes it possible as well to slide show right away the pictures taken, without any other help than a video cable!

Through the computer, hundreds of pictures can be saved, sorted out, worked on, engraved on a CD, printed, or sent through the web to be professionally processed.

The various possible uses in the classroom, as we will see in the next part, make of that camera an outstanding pedagogical tool, especially for deaf children.























2.1.2. The attitude of deaf children towards new technologies, transitional tools

Taking deaf children in pedagogical charge, because of their disabilities, require specific adjustments; as the decrees number 87-273 and 87-08 from September 7th, 1987 state, deaf children specific pedagogy aims at developing "strategies using the visual channel enough." From which, permanently resorting to images, whatever their forms.

Among them, the use of a digital camera, which, like the computer, or any other new technology, is an object creating a bridge between the child and what he achieves. An infallible bridge, which gives its user a feeling of achievement, even more when the user is himself deprived of one of his senses. Indeed, a deaf child, whose sensory fallibility has been proven, is more attracted by those objects.

As for the digital camera, which plays the part of a third eye, exploiting and mastering it tends to make up for the lack of hearing. Of course, such a compensation cannot substitute for deficient hearing.

Anyway, a deaf child using a digital camera is comforted in sharpening his sense, the eyesight, which allows him best to grasp the world.

To a hearing pupil, such a situation acts mainly as a source of increased stimulation; on the contrary, mastering such a tool for a deaf child does not only mean that crucial motivation indispensable to any learning process, but also a real need. Indeed, as the decree about ICIPS from November 18th, 1991 states,

"As all the other children, but in an earlier and more urgent way, those pupils are to know about their contemporary techniques, whose skill will be, soon, a criterion of adaptation to society."

Developing as soon as possible an active contact between deaf children and image new technologies gives those pupils an asset, far from just being a pedagogical indulgence. Again, according to the former decree quoted, "experience shows that disabled pupils take advantage of an early contact with those knowledge and exchange instruments."

Using new technologies brings as well a big change in the realm of pedagogy: indeed, the relationship to being wrong, making mistakes, between a pupil and his school activities is really modified when a transitional technological tool such as the digital camera comes into it. The verb to make a mistake, used with that camera, loses its impact inducing feelings of guilt, since new technologies do not judge the child, but totally respect his choices and actions. If a pupil decides for instance to take a back-lit picture, the camera will follow orders and after visualizing the snapshot, the child will see by himself the lack of light! In that way, the digital camera deprives its user from the doom of being wrong, giving as well a feeling of freedom to its user, getting him rid of the fear of failing. That anguish to be wrong, very sharp for the deaf, is often the starting point to a negative behaviour towards schoolwork. That relationship to being wrong is too often the cause of a biased relationship between deaf children and their learnings. The medium of new technologies is a privileged means of lessening that often critical feeling for the deaf pupils, fearing facing mistakes, having to express himself about them.

Taking a picture out of focus, badly framed, or lacking light, is of no consequence! Unlike traditional photography, those unsatisfactory snapshots can directly be erased out of the camera’s memory; thus there will not be any permanent trace of a punctual misuse! The budding photographer self-evaluating his snaps, keeping or erasing them right away.

That is also true that learning takes its roots out of mistakes. In order not to make the same mistakes, it is crucial to understand it and be able to remember it. If every time he does not use the digital camera the best way ( as far as framing, luminosity, focusing are concerned...) the pupil just visualizes his snapshot a few seconds before erasing it for good, that mistake assimilation and memorization process will not be achieved. That way, could it be imagined from time to time to keep those unsatisfactory snapshots, storing them in a binder ring where the pupil, helped by his peers or his professor, will be able to write down the date, the trouble about the picture, as well as the cause and the way to find a solution to it.









2.1.3. Images, learning sources

Since learning results out of seeing, the image is a kingly way to come to new acquisitions.

Using images, whatever their types, their social functions, their features, their media, has always played an important part in the classroom. Common sense saying it is easier, more practical, therefore to be grasped more easily, the image has a particular status. Its inherent evocative power along with its ability to remind more easily its reader of its pre-existence, give to deaf children a privileged source of knowledge.

However, what the image conveys is not self-evoked as far as saying it is concerned. In that way, language activities whose starting points are images do not guarantee success in transposing from the visual to the oral code. Indeed, as François Audigier states in Image, Langages, " words with which to say what the images are, to describe them, to explain them, to write them, are not contained in images." Experience shows that this is definitely a burden for deaf children because getting into the realm of words is a difficulty made bigger by their sensitive relationships to language.

Sorting out images for instance can be a simple activity for deaf pupils, until they are to say why they chose to sort them out that way, until they are asked to put a name to the identified categories, until they are to express logical connections, or to use adverbs.

For a deaf child, transposing images to an oral or written representation raises specific troubles linked to his handicap. Yes indeed, multiplying activities starting out with images will gradually help the deaf child to change representation levels: From the visual level, level one, reading an image, to level two, the image verbal representation.


2.1.4. Photographs, particular images

A photography, whose specificity is to punctually immortalize a complex reality could be defined as a poor image; the source image, before it be frozen, has a wide range of perceptions (visual, hearing, sensory-motor, emotional). As soon as the picture has been taken, that source image gets poorer because only its looks have been stored in memory! The picture then becomes the symbol of the source image that was to be immortalized; on the other hand, the set of perceptions whose picture is the mirror of can however be seen through. In that way photographs relocate us in a tangible, real instant, in which we have or could have taken part! Unlike the painter’s masterpiece, which feels directly the touch of the artist, his brush being the bridge between his fingers and his canvas, photographs are being born out of the instant, as if by magic, giving a dimension of both mystery and déja vu to its reader.

At the pedagogical level, a photograph is a form of representation of real life which puts forward the relationships between the photographer and which picture he takes, or between the reader and the picture when the image is the mirror of familiar objects or subjects. That feature linked to digital cameras allows pupils to be put into an everlasting emulation. Deaf children in the classroom need to work in an environment where marks of all kinds play an important part; Using a digital camera, therefore resorting to familiar images because they have been regularly elaborated by the pupils themselves, is another asset in the everyday classroom practices. Those crucial marks towards the development of the child lie upon all his senses. A photograph has the power to bring back all the senses in action when the picture had been taken.

As Serge Tisseron writes in Image psychoanalysis, "the photograph multi-sensoriality does not reflect reality, but it is part of the image itself through our ability to build up out of the world a visual, sound, and cenesthesic image at the same time."

2.2. Towards an enriched and renewable pedagogy :

What digital cameras bring in a deaf pupils class.

2.2.1. The pedagogical approach

As does underline Article four of the landmark law of June 30th, 1975, "disabled children and adolescents are subject to educational obligation. They either receive an ordinary education, or, if it is not possible, a special education."

Thus, be it in a special or ordinary school environment, disabled pupils are taught adaptively, being neighbours, in the case of an ordinary education, to classmates without a disability. The activities put forward in the next pages are adapted for deaf children, even if I am convinced all the pedagogical efforts made in favor of deaf children could benefit all pupils, disabled or not, having learning difficulties or not.

Of course, deaf children, unlike their "normal" classmates take advantage of adjustments in their school lives.

Namely, a small number of pupils in a classroom, a specialized educative team (specialized teachers for the deaf (CAAPSAIS Option A , or CAPEJS in France), medical and paramedical professionals (physicians, psychologists, hearing aid specialists, speech therapists…) Those adjustments require a project whose responsability is shared by all the members of the educative team. The project being interdisciplinary makes the pupil active in all his learnings. His timetable, shared between various professionals makes it imperative a close collaboration inside the educative team. The activities set out in the next pages can be part of such a dynamic.


2.2.2. Language activities The mystery object

Objectives :

To be able to express oneself orally or through sign language.

To be able to use interrogative sentences.

To be able to show logic.

To be able to remember useful pieces of information ( remembering former questions and answers)


In the classroom, in the lobby, or anywhere in the institution, a pupil takes several pictures of a same object or location using the "macro" mode (the distance between the lens and the object less than 20 cm) without his classmates knowing what pictures he takes. After selecting the picture he likes most (taking into account framing, colors, focus...), he shows it to his classmates through the TV set (using a basic video cable linking both devices.)

Initial instructions:

" You are going to ask questions to the photographer in order to find out what picture he took. Be careful, his only answers will be yes or no. The one who will identify what picture he took will then play the part of the photographer."




Results, in a class of twelve years old:

The two groups I could work with on that activity, the mystery object, did not have the same linguistic profile, which allowed me to compare two distinctive situations; on the one hand, a group using sign language, on the other hand, a group speaking.

As far as the pupils mainly communicating through signs are concerned (I do not use, on purpose, the term French Sign Language (FSL), because those pupils did not sign fluently), taking a close picture was a hard job for one of them; he was inclined to take the picture from not that close; indeed, an object or a location taken from too far deprived the game of any interest since it became obvious to see what had been taken! The pupils who wanted to ask the photographer were all pointing instead of asking questions. Another instruction was given to find a solution to that communicational stumbling block:

"You will have to take a picture somewhere else than in the room we are."

To most pupils, finding questions was not a piece of cake. For instance, pertinent questions came only after a question about the material the object taken was made of. That track allowed to find out the material, then the place, at last the object itself, a wall in the lobby.

The coherence of the questions from one another has been respected. Let us suppose that the activity led among younger pupils would not have necessarily generated that indispensable logic to find out the mystery object.

(Pictures taken by the pupils: a trash bag, a VCR, a tiled wall, posters, the page of a book, a wall socket, a mirror.)

In the perspective of an active pedagogy, taking into account the choices of the pupils is a real motivation engine. First taking over the digital camera, then the object he decides to immortalize, the deaf child stands in the center of his learning acquisitions and in the center of the sensitive world he can perceive.

From that starting point does he lead a debate with his peers. On the readers’ side, analyzing the photograph, coming to read it precisely is the base of the development of the privileged sense for a deaf child; a sense to be sharpened to make up for the deficient hearing. Being able to read an image is the foundation stone of understanding, of the whole cognitive process which will end up in decoding it, then contextualizing it, finally identifying it.

To what extent does this activity, the mystery object, suit more deaf children as far as getting into language is concerned? Unlike " normal " children, deaf pupils, even if their image reading competences are not superior to those of their hearing classmates, give naturally a great importance to everything being visual; that inherent inclination which results out of their disabled hearing does not mean they are to analyze the world they live in in a better manner. Anyway, starting activities with situations where only the eyesight is at stake gives the deaf child a feeling of security, because he is out of oral or written codes, which often renders the beginning of the activity painstaking. In that case, getting into language is free, self-evoked by the situation, needless to give unfathomable instructions.

Example of an evaluation grid:


First name:


The pupil is able to:


In the process of acquistion


Express himself orally or through signs.


Use interrogative sentences.


Remember useful pieces of information.



The pupil is able to:


In the process of acquisition


Switch the camera on.






Protect a snapshot.


Erase it.



2.2.3. Developing spatiotemporal marks. The living alphabet


To be able to create alphabet letters with one’s body.

To be able to project oneself in space.

To be able to stand straight.


"You are going to draw the alphabet letters, imagining each stroke writing them be one of you!"

"Then you will " create " human letters and take yourself the picture of them !"

Procedure :

After showing an example on the blackboard, the pupils think over it and draw. Then, the pupils show their sketches before showing them with their bodies.

One after another, the pupils build up human letters and take pictures of them.

The letter T personified

Results, in a class of twelve years old:

As soon as seeing on the blackboard the example of the letter T, the pupils wanted right away to build it up with their bodies; reacting to such a fad I let them show me their proposition; advisedly using a low piece of furniture running along the wall of the classroom I have been working in the past two years, a pupil lay on it, thus crossing the T; one of his classmates simply stood in front of him in the middle of his length. A third pupil took a picture of that human letter built up by both his classmates. After visualizing it on the TV screen, the pupils were happy about what they did. I asked them, for our next appointment, to draw other letters built up by persons. To help them think about new built up letters, I told them that the low piece of furniture they used to cross the T was not found in every classroom. I looked at the floor to help them again. At last one of them thought about building up human letters on the floor. Everyone agreed to use this idea for the letters to be built up.

The letter A for instance has been imagined by some pupils built up by 3 persons; it was difficult for them to keep their bodies as straight as possible; even if this criterion of success has not always been achieved (a disabled pupil suffering from a motor disability due to an athetosis was in the classroom), the overall results, as far as the artistic touch is concerned, were very satisfactory.

Here is an example of the letter A, reduced to 6% of the original picture; the background has been emptied thanks to an image software:

That creative activity can, according to the pupils’ levels, start a frieze project, a reference alphabet, or illustrate the pages of each initial letter change of the lexicon project developed in the 3rd part of the report.


Such an activity, which is supposed to be led with younger pupils could have the same positive impact with a hearing class.

The indisputable asset of such a project towards deaf children lies at the level of the relation to establish between the letters (and sounds) built up by their bodies and their productions on a phonological level. Beyond the artistic aspect that can take that project, it would be interesting to lead it into an introduction to oral production. Different methods, like the verbo-tonal method (VTM) or the speech natural dynamic, relate a gesture to a sound depending on its phonological features (where and how the sound is articulated). The Professor Guberina, founder of the VTM, a method putting in action the body as the medium of speech learning, thinks that "language is movement." The rhythmic stimulations related to this method require, according to Rudolf Laban, the VTM inspirer, basic competences, such as the kinesthesic conscience of one’s body (coordination between the whole body and its different parts); what coincides with one of the objectives of that living alphabet project.

Taking a motivating project like the living alphabet as a starting point to begin the complex study of our language in its phonological aspect seems to me a stepping stone to get into the oralization. A ludic and artistic stepping stone in order to maximize the chances to get into that sensitive realm that is oralization and phonological awareness for a deaf child.



Example of an evaluation grid:

(Except the technical competences common to all activities)


First name:


The pupil is able to :


In the process of acquisition


Write the letters of the alphabet imagining each stroke being a person.


Keep his body straight.


Occupy space with his body.


Locate his body regarding the stroke of the letter he has to build up.


2.2.4. Creating an FSL lexicon, using as media the digital camera and the computer.


To be able to find a means of static representation of a dynamic reality.

To be able to create an FSL lexicon.

Initial instructions:

"How could we, thanks to the digital camera, keep track of newly learned signs?"


Facing the stake of keeping a written track of a new FSL sign learned in the classroom, the pupils think of a way to find a solution. After what, comes the actual creation of a lexicon showing at the same time the FSL sign immortalized by a picture, the referential reality (as an image, another photograph), and the written linguistic signifiant.


Results, in a class of twelve years old: :

The actual situation was to find a way to find back in a quick and permanent manner the new signs COMPUTING and INTERNET; Right away, one of the pupils asked if the camera could record video sequences (as it is the case for some digital cameras); my answer was no, his reaction, disappointment.

However, after raising the trouble of storing those videos, he became aware of the practical superiority of the digital camera which gave immediately in front of his eyes the pictures taken, in a binder ring or in posters; needless to use a VCR, being also at stake the trouble about indexing the signs!

After that sensible remark from one of the pupils, they became aware that taking just a picture of the signs at the first movement was not enough; they suggested to write an arrow showing the hands movement to complete the FSL sign.

Here is the picture taken out of the first frozen movement of the word COMPUTING:

One of the pupils suggest to add arrows to complete the picture:

(Arrows added thanks to a computer, or just drawn by the pupils on the printed photograph)



Then comes the written linguistic signifiant:

(Word added through wordprocessing)




Finally is added the referential reality, found in an image data bank:





The tool digital camer a, whose use in this particular case suits best deaf children, proves to be a permanent pedagogical classmate. Indeed, the FSL lexicon is a long-term project; that specific feature is an important element in leading one’s class of deaf children.

The concepts of permanent marks are of a real importance in a disabled-pupil class. When the disability is deafness, multiplying spatiotemporal marks is a determining stake. Putting into effect everyday rituals, as well as permanent tools, contributes to develop those fundamental notions for the development of deaf pupils.

At the beginning of the school year, immortalization of new signs will be made with the assistance of the teacher. In return, as the new pictures are being taken, the pupil will be able to be autonomous as far as the camera technique is concerned. Thus using the digital camera will become an ordinary process, being part of the everyday classroom life.

That feeling of mastering a technical object for a deaf child is a often synonymous to victory over oneself; more be it since introducing such an device, immediately seen as magic, is accompanied at first sight by a "I won’t ever make it!"

Example of an evaluation grid:

(Except the technical competences common to all activities)


First name:


The pupil is able to:


In the process of acquisition


Draw the movement of a sign.


Use the computer to work on pictures.


Look for references in an image data bank.



2.3. The limits of using a digital camera in a class of deaf children

With hindsight, allowing me to have a critical look at the different pedagogical activities I led those past weeks in the Sensory Deficient Institute Le Phare in Illzach (Haut-Rhin), here are the thoughts I came to as far as the limits of using a digital camera in a classroom is concerned.

Obviously, the price of such a tool is still very high. Even if it is bought by the school, it is to be shared between all the professionals, constraining them in booking it, whereas using it in a free manner makes it a rich tool; for instance, keeping track of the weather, or creating an FSL lexicon demands the tool to always be in the classroom.

Moreover, in spite of a real fad towards all the activities using the digital camera at the beginning, deaf pupils often came to face difficulties specific to their disabilities, namely, transferring situations in another context, real communication with their classmates, even more when their deafness degrees, therefore often their privileged communication modes, are heterogeneous. Of course, class projects contribute to lessen the weight of such learning difficulties.

Thus, putting those pupils in motivating situations where are at stake those lacks will allow them to overcome them without having a mental block; even more so when children can rely on a transitional tool, getting them rid of part of their often persisting fears to fail.


Choosing the path of the image using a digital camera to increase deaf children's performances in the realm of language is, indeed, a kingly way as far as motivation is concerned, but the other side of the coin lies in the time needed to pursue such a project. Like other technological devices (camcorders, computers…), using them has a drawback: its long-term aspect.

As a matter of fact, there are no specific limits about the use of digital cameras in a deaf-pupil class; that tool is, among all new technologies, the best fit to that sensory lack since being visually centered.





The report you have been reading is not an apologia to digital cameras, but rather a think tank about its use. That thinking process is to widen up along with my experience and the experience of all other colleagues using it.

Through the different projects shown in that report putting new technologies in the limelight, one has become aware of the wide range of uses that tool can bring in a classroom of deaf pupils in any learning field taught.

As all the other new technologies, digital cameras are not a panacea, but they become full of assets when they are used in a thoughtful way in an often interdisciplinary project. An even sharper and more dynamic aspect grows out of those innovative projects when pedagogical experience exchanges between specialized teachers are being developed.

Another revolution in the realm of new technologies, the internet, frees up that network! It is up to us, teachers of the third millennium, to take up the gauntlet and use new technologies to serve pedagogy!



Audio-visuel et enseignement, Bernard Planque, Casterman, 1971

Psychanalyse de l'image, Serge Tisseron, Dunod, 1995

Ordinateur et pédagogie différenciée, Anny et Jean-Marc VERSINI, Nathan Pédagogie, 1996

L’école à l’heure d’internet , les enjeux du multimédia dans l’éducation,

Serge Pouts-Lajus, Marielle Riché-Magnier, Fernand Nathan, 1998

Image, langages, Maryvonne Masselot-Girard, François Audigier, INRP, 1999

L’informatique à l’école, Yves Moreau, Michel Tournon, Bertrand Lacoste, 1999